Agricultural Industry Equation, and I Suggest We Reinvigorate the Victory Garden Campaign

My studies at JWU, while composed of many wine tastings, plenty of time in front of a stove, and too many “pretend you own a restaurant” projects, were independently supplemented by research inspired by my own intense and possessing curiosity.  I found myself sincerely disappointed that we rarely took a glance at the agricultural industry. Our scope, as food industry professionals,  began at the inventory list of a supplier and ended with what we place on the plate of the customer. True, there are plenty of intricacies in between and there is so much to learn in that cross section of the process, but it’s still a limited view.Read More »

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Something short and sweet to honor the bard.

A very merry, happy birthday to William Shakespeare. I am not a literary critic, I do not plan to present to you a long winded thesis full of quotations and complex analysis meant to demonstrate Shakespeare’s significance. Thank goodness, eh?

And this is precisely my point. I do not have to do such a thing. The value of Shakespeare’s works are understood by all. Anyone who has read a Shakespeare play, even so much as a sonnet or two, has felt the weight of his words, and perhaps a touch of the strife it takes to comprehend ye olde English.

I am thankful for Shakespeare’s existence because of the beautiful, complex, goofy, and horrid depictions of humanity he provided to society. More specifically: without discouraging any audience members, by making his product restrictive to just a few privileged people, to a single class – he has become one of the most prolific historic figures that ever lived.

I think this might be the greatest irony regarding most of his works, they were so common. Meant for an audience of ordinary people. At the time the populace achieved a basic grammar school education, if that much, and yet today… we really struggle to actively engage high school seniors with Shakespeare. Nerdy, little I took a Shakespeare elective my senior year.

Now I have to say something that might be off putting, but this is how I see Shakespeare, this is why I felt compelled to write about him today, this is why I think he was so revolutionary and still holds incredible relevance in this age: Shakespeare, 400-something years ago, wrote it all. People, you can have your “classics”: your Russian masterpieces, your English romantics, your French novelists… but we must recognize that the bulk of their words are the reiteration of what Shakespeare has already penned to paper, and has had shouted from stages the world over through the centuries. So if you have read his plays, that is all that you need, you just might be a complete human being (I have yet to complete this task, making no personal claims here).

A bit of hilarity:

My favorite:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining school-boy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then, the justice,
In fair round belly, with a good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Weekend Tunes, March 28th 2015

God bless shuffle and the rediscovery of forgotten corners of your music library.

Welcome to another installment of Weekend Tunes.

Back in September of 2008, I went to a concert at the Somerville Theater with a group of family friends to see Zucchero Fornaciari live on his own birthday. I had a great time, and I am certain Zucchero (pronounced: tsukkero) had a great time as well. He was clearly already well into his birthday celebrations when he first walked on stage, I distinctly remember a slight stumbling quality to his gait.

Other than understanding that he is a rather famous Italian artist, who lives in the genres of blues, rock, and pop, I am not particularly familiar with Zucchero, his discography or his career. Instead, I would like to present to you the one album of his that I am very familiar with.

Zu & Co. is the perfect accompaniment to entertaining:

On Zu & Co. you will find an assemblage of collaborations with such well regarded artists as Miles Davis, Eric Clapton, Sting, Pavarotti, Andrea Botticelli, and B.B. King… yes, it’s amazing, I know!

zu & co

Just as Zucchero’s name suggests, the music on this album is very sweet. It is simple, easygoing, toe-tapping, hum-along type of music. There’s a bit of optimistic and bouncy pop, a few touching or heartwrenching ballads, some slick, movement-inspiring rock, and just a touch of stirring, modern blues.

But most importantly, there is excellent trumpeting by the one and only Miles Davis. Dune Mosse is my favorite track.

Followed closely by Zucchero’s collaboration on Sting’s early 90’s track [Mad About You], Muoio Per Te.

I can just imagine a steamy evening here in New England; sun setting, drinks flowing, the grill smoking, and Zu & Co. providing the essential groovy ambiance.

Video preview of album, as provided by the ever brilliant Google search engine.

iTunes & Amazon (physical copy)

Homebrewing, a story of personal growth… #sarcasm

I’ve learned a new language. Here’s a sample:

add strike water to grain bill in tun.
or, allow for conversion by leaving mash covered for an hour
or, lauter until wort exiting tun is no longer cloudy
or, boil wort, cool, siphon into carboy and pitch yeast

This is the language of brewing. I was examining my life a bit, when I realized; I know someone who smokes their own fish and meat, I know someone who makes their own tonic (like tonic for gin & tonics!), and I know someone who pickles everything imaginable from their own garden… how incredible is it to be self-sustaining in the 21st century? It’s a novel concept, and yet it was common practice 3 or 4 generations ago.

I have noticed the trend, and hopefully I am not the only one so excited about it, that singular good producers and service suppliers are reentering the markets, battling with the sometimes terrifying monster that is globalization, but emerging from the past nonetheless. So while I can pick up some fresh milled rye flour and handmade soap from my farmer’s market, a pound of fresh pasta from Dave’s, and any fresh baked loaf from Iggy’s, I can also crack open a bottle of my own home-brewed beer.

It’s so brilliant and so ordinary all at the same time. Now do not read this as a cry for complete self reliance. There is no way I can willingly give up my Piedmont-ese wine, South American 70% dark chocolate, and Ugandan coffee beans. My claims are more of a cry for awareness, for balance. I figured, sure, I can brew beer. And so I did! It was as simple as such. If there’s a farmer’s market near by, go to it. It’s just like a grocery store, but all of the produce is infinitely of better quality because it’s fresh and it’s local.

Regardless of the significance, let me say, these brews are coming out damn good.

The process, essentially:

The first go around was a basic brown ale. It had bright hop flavors co-mingling with caramel roast-y notes. Though über low on carbonation, soda-like carbonation is something we have been tricked into accepting more of from the commercial producers, it’s a result that I am very pleased with and would absolutely enjoy if I had picked it up as a 6-pack from any of my favorite breweries.

the brown ale!
the brown ale!

The second round brewed at home was a English pale ale, classified as an Extra Special Bitter *Extra special…oooh, aaah*. Sipping it right now, for the first time after bottling on Saturday, another success. Imagine you’ve taken a seat at the bar of a pub, maybe not in London, but in some town representative of authentic England, maybe a sort of rural location. The interior’s dark, with weathered leather seating, and an older gentleman polishing glasses behind the counter. This is what’s on draft. You can’t taste the hops, but the bitterness is there as an after taste, the carbonation of fine bubbles imparts a silky sort of feel, and there are notes of biscuity malt and even some of those banana esters. It’s real nice.

This is probably the most shocking aspect of the whole production. This brown liquid, strained off of a pile of milled malt, bubbling away in the hallway upstairs, morphed into some good, honestly delicious, beer. I can’t say exactly what I was expecting, perhaps this reveals my pessimistic tendencies!

This is nice: Craft Beer – A Hopumentary

p.s. I highly suggest clicking the links I provide while writing all these posts, otherwise it’s likely that you can’t understand a fu**ing thing I am trying to communicate. Listen here, I spent the time learning about it all, you could at least take a look 😉

p.p.s definitely watch this > How Beer Saved the World. It’s hilarious and it’s true. Deal with it, beer allowed for human civilization to evolve.

13 Favorite Posts of 2013

It’s been a wild ride here. This little thing, the virtual and unofficial publication of ideas, has morphed almost unrecognizably from my first post in October 2012. The direction it’s headed in? I haven’t the slightest idea. But I will continue to write about issues that inspire, restaurants that excite, and perhaps a bit more on films that stimulate.

Quite a few of these selections are chronicles of my time spent in Europe this summer, really pleasant memories reflected there. I mention this because soon enough I will release the photo album! I’ve been picking away at it for months and it is certainly due for public viewing by now.

Here is the so judged crème de la crème, cream of the crop… do you agree? If you’ve missed any posts, these are the one’s of repute:

Bread & Circus
Very important post in this corner of the internet
Happy People and a Couple of Dreams
passionate, considerate, and altruistic #MCC2013
To Write What Is True
Wine in France, Beer in England, and Whisky in Scotland…
Just a glimpse: Tuileries (Champs-Elysées before, Musée d’Orsay to come)
Edinburgh Festivals!
A little story
This is Life (to me)
Blue Jasmine, and a commentary
Alder
Sam’s at Louis

Very important post in this corner of the internet.

I am going to shamelessly plug a song in here, with a quote, to set a tone: “I’ve had a question that’s been preying on my mind for some time.” Basically, I think about these kind of issues plenty:

Evil is an awfully strong word, but is it a fair description [one so perfectly accurate]? Well here’s a video that details Monsanto’s history and what role it plays in current affairs. Watch this, and you don’t even have to read the text I’ve written below, I expand upon the issues brought to quickly mentioned throughout the video.

And it was a 51% landslide vote! Followed by the Federal Reserve at 20%… what kind of gold and silver medals are fashioned for such a contest?

This is why “organic”, a concept of sustainable practice with conscience of its effects on surrounding environments and the people involved throughout the process, is essential. Forget about the petty arguments of “but there’s no proof that organic is more nutritious than GMOs, and one method is more affordable than the other. Shopping organic is a refusal to fuel the destructive beast that is Monsanto, the company with the largest global share of their industry and with the greatest influence over policy making.

Monsanto: “American multinational chemical, and agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri. It is a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and of the herbicide glyphosate, which it markets under the Roundup brand.

The question of the safety of Genetically Modified Organisms is still unresolved in my mind, I don’t have the means to analyze the studies and determine their validity and objectivity of every single one.

The one thing I ask is for the knowledge to make an informed decision. Since the early 1990’s, GM labeling has been mandatory in the European Union, why is that not in place in the U.S.? It’s such a simple reform… that would affect the profits of these agricultural biotechnology companies, I suppose.

Which is when we reach the concept of “revolving doors”: the observation that Monsanto employees move between corporate employment and government positions so effortlessly. From Monsanto Vice President of Public Policy → Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the U.S. FDA (Michael Taylor), Supervisor of clinical studies of bovine somatotropin (rBST) → Deputy Director of Human Food Safety and Consultative Services, New Animal Drug Evaluation Office, Center for Veterinary Medicine in the FDA (Margaret Miller), and the list goes on. C’mon! It’s not hard to connect their hand in creation and then their effect of putting into practice. The influence they have in barreling their products into market is frightening, and the amount of money they syphon into affecting policy is absurd.

And then the bees! The cause(s) of Colony Collapse Disorder is not confirmed, and I have no intentions of definitively attributing it to the abundant use of pesticides. I mention it because it’s not an issue that can be ignored. Without bees (and apparently wild insects as well) to pollinate crops that bud, the agricultural system would be decimated; we would be without the seed protecting substances that we consume, also known as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Click on the photo to find out what would disappear. No way this New Englander will readily give up apple picking in the fall. *Fun fact: WFM University Heights was my Whole Foods of choice for two years while residing in Providence.

Whole Foods Market University Heights' produce department with and without items dependent on pollinator populations.  (PRNewsFoto/Whole Foods Market)
Whole Foods Market University Heights’ produce department with and without items dependent on pollinator populations. (PRNewsFoto/Whole Foods Market)

Here’s the thing about Monsanto. They are the quick fix. That is their Modus Operandi. The scariest example is Agent Orange. Manufactured by Monsanto Corp. and Dow Chemical, this toxic mix of 2 herbicides was used to reduce brush in order to easily see the targets of the U.S. Military, and to kill their crops during the Vietnam War. Cue quick fix. The lasting effects Agent Orange has had on U.S. veterans and the resident populations exposed 50+ years later is unbelievably horrific. I cannot describe it with my words, look at the pictures and you’ll understand and never forget. While Monsanto’s agricultural work essentially results in the increased efficiency of food production, providing food for our ever increasing populations (cue quick fix), that is all only attainable by the dumping of pesticides and herbicides, disrupting surrounding ecosystems. The consequences we will have to deal with from developing herbicide resistance, degradation of the soil microorganisms, surrounding land and water habitats are steadily presenting themselves. Though this is true for much of agribusiness in general, not exclusively Monsanto.

image

It all sounds like a ridiculous Hollywood movie. The amount of corruption and ill-intentions running through the veins of this company echoes fiction, bouncing between the genres of sci-fi and horror. Unfortunately Hollywood is such a successfully distracting machine that the juicier and actually damaging dramas occurring every day are constantly missed. Maybe we’ll soon see a Scorsese directed “Wolf of AgriBusiness”!

p.s. In light of all the NSA issues hitting the news these days, I would like to send a shout out to the very special NSA agent who was undoubtedly alerted by all the red flags of my search history for writing this blog… I hope you enjoy the post! 😉

1/8/13 edit:
Stumbled on this excellent essay (Michael Pollan tweeted it). Addresses the incredibly manipulated reporting and scientific consensus on GMOs.

The lessons I have learned: ART

Something fun and inconsequential:

The writers taught me to analyze everything, to leave no stone unturned for you never know the story lying beneath.

The painters taught me how to find a vision, to direct my focus and attention to a single subject worthy of great consideration and examination.

The con-artists have taught me to be wary with my belief, and to accept little as truth right away.

The comedians taught me to raise my voice and that nothing is off limits, so long as it has perceivable worth.

The filmmakers have occasionally taught me more about life than the experience itself.

And the musicians. They taught me how to enjoy life. There is no such pleasing form of expression than music.

Happy People and a Couple of Dreams

I had a uniquely thought provoking afternoon this Thursday. It resulted from watching 3 Werner Herzog films in succession. Well, technically 2, but all 3 suffering his influence in one way or another. Do not judge my pastimes too harshly, I am on Thanksgiving break.

The first, Happy People. Essentially about trappers in the Taiga, and their existence so [knowingly] removed from the modern world. The Second, Burden of Dreams. An odd documentary cataloging Herzog’s experience filming Fitzcarraldo in the Amazon. Though more like: a documentary cataloging Herzog’s odd experience filming Fitzcarraldo in the Amazon. The third, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. A dreamy depiction of the collections of cave paintings at Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc dating back as far as 32,000 years ago, with pronounced lingering effections (I know that’s not a real word, deal with it).

Happy People, to me, seemed to be the distillation of human behaviors and attitudes in our existing society. Suddenly more powerful because of the very alive connection to nature, and that overwhelming awareness. You are challenged to consider what you personally desire for a satisfactory existence, and what meaning any of it possesses. But must importantly, our philosopher friend ,Gennady Soloviev, treats us to sweet nuggets of wisdom, regarding greed, companionship, dominance, craftsmanship, solitude, and industry. Must watch.

Burden of Dreams was like an outrageous mokumentary, but it’s not. I swear, those struggle and pursuits are all real, and I could hardly believe any of it. I have not seen the film which the documentary is records. but I have never witnessed such genuine irony in any film, writing, etc. as this movie shows. Fitzcarraldo is based on a historic figure, but Herzog’s film turns him into an Irishman dead set on bringing an opera house to the Amazon basin. Here is the story of a foreign man engrossed by his own culture fighting to impose it onto a completely different realm neither aware of nor much concerned with it. And the documentary shows: a German director struggling to film a movie in a wild land of tribal people. It’s excellent, and you get to witness Herzog’s gradual realization of the fact. Must watch.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is not a movie I will soon forget. Must watch.

I am left with an enduring, vibrant image of these early humans, hands dirtied by charcoal, sketching on the cave walls, guided by firelight… but I have always had a potent imagination.

These are astonishingly striking compositions. They are not crude, they depict habits of animals, illustrate movement, it’s all art. More deserving of attention than much of what is on display in any museum, because they are yet absent of the human pretenses of “making art”, and instead are the deep physical activity of processing external environments. The most important thing actually said in the film, versus shown, is the concept of art (in its various forms) being a means to communicate with the future. It’s hardly a complex idea, but it is fantastically true. Why bother to record anything? It must be captured, to be viewed again, 5 years down the road,

150,

monet

600,

da vinci

2,200,

Nike of Samothrace

32,000.

chauvet

I do not know how Herzog does it, but he is brilliant. Did you think you would find cave paintings so fascinating, or the lives of trappers living in the Russian Taiga so compelling? I certainly did not expect to, but here I am, writing about it all, hoping to share the profound experience with you. Must Watch.